October 1st, 2012

bilbo

something lighthearted and fannish for a change

Over at FB, ellen_kushner posted a fun link:

http://bookriot.com/2012/09/30/the-book-riot-50-11-top-ten-made-up-literary-couples/

Basically, the author suggests characters from different classic books - different classic books, that would make a good couple. Think Hermione Granger/Holden Caulfield, that kind of thing. It's actually pretty funny.

For my money, Friedrich Baehr is and always will be Jo's one true love. But if he should meet an untimely end, I can see Atticus doing nicely. As for my own add-on? For some reason I thought of Boromir and Johanna from the Hunger Games almost immediately. If anyone knows what it's like to have a demon or to, it's Boromir, and I can't quite see him being happy with anyone who wasn't at least half shield-maiden...
bilbo

October 1, 2012 in "Obama's America"

Back in the 2008 election, Religious Right leader James Dobson posted a (IMO shameful) "Letter from 2012 in Obama's America." Here's how Dobson himself explains it in the letter's opening.

What will the United States be like if Senator Obama is elected?  The most reliable way of predicting people’s future actions is by looking at their past actions. [...] 

So here is a picture of the changes that are likely or at least very possible if Senator Obama is elected and the far-Left segments of the Democratic Party gain control of the White House, the Congress, and perhaps then the Supreme Court. The entire letter is written as a “What if?” exercise, but that does not make it empty speculation, because every future “event” described here is based on established legal and political trends that can be abundantly documented and that only need a “tipping point” such as the election of Senator Obama and a Democratic House and Senate to begin to put them into place. 
http://www.wnd.com/files/Focusletter.pdf

What kind of predictions did this hypothetical citizen make? Gay marriage would be legal by Supreme Court decision - and bookstores carrying books from Christian publishers would be forced by LGBT groups to remove them from the stands. Home schooling is all but banned. Tel Aviv was levelled by an Iranian nuclear bomb and Israel teeters on the brink of annihilation.Religious groups that oppose homosexuality are no longer allowed on campus, and high schoolers can't do the See You at the Flag-pole thing anymore. Congress passed a law wiping out all restrictions to abortion, as well as conscience clauses for medical practitioners who didn't want to do them. It is now illegal to restrict sale of pornography to minors, the second amendment only applies to militias and not individuals, and the Boy Scouts disbanded because they'd be forced to "hire homosexual scoutmasters and allow them to sleep in tents with younger boys." We got a single-payer health care plan, and people over eighty have almost no access to hospitals and doctors. Oh, and Iraq? We pulled out in April 2010 as promised, and in May al Qaida poured in and took over the country.  "A Taliban-like oppression has taken over in Iraq, and hundreds of thousands of “American sympathizers” have been labeled as traitors, imprisoned, tortured, and killed. The number put to death may soon reach the millions."

Except, you know, it didn't happen like that at all.

Today it is October 1, 2012. I've just skimmed the letter, but I couldn't find a single point that unrolled the way they predicted - certainly not in the absolutist way they describe. I guess it's possible I missed something, since I only skimmed; do feel free to reread the letter yourself. That's why I posted the link. :-) The letter says it was written in October 2012, so I guess it's possible things could still go this badly, but if it does, the Supreme Court's got a heck of a month ahead of them.

I'm not posting this to beat up on the Christian Right, or the Right generally. But I'm sure there are emails being forwarded with the same apocalyptic tone, though likely not as documented. I just thought it would be useful to look back at what people thought America would look like today, if we elected the wrong candidate. If you find yourself this scared about America's future if we elect "the wrong guy," maybe think on this. Politics matter, and I definitely think we'd be better under Obama than under Romney. The current GOP scares me in a lot of ways, frankly. But if "the wrong guy" wins, the earth will still spin, the internet will still work, and life will go on. 

Food for thought. Will a citizen from 2016 in Romney's (or Obama's) America look anything like the hellscape predicted by a lot of people on both sides? I really don't think so. And while we should still fight for the best America we can (whatever form we each think that takes), we should also take it down a notch.  

ETA: Over at Patheos, the well-known atheist blogger Libby Anne has walked through many of the letter's claims and outlined where they fall apart. We're different people, so obviously we'll sometimes disagree on whether the state of the actual union is good or not. (Sometimes I do agree!) But on the facts she's got it nailed. Do read her post if you're interested in this.
bilbo

the California ban of therapies to "cure" homosexuality

ETA: I have officially been convinced I was wrong. Hey, it happens!;-) Feel free to keep commenting, but do check out my recent blog post following up on this.

Apparently, California has passed a law outlawing certain kinds of psychotherapies, specifically those that attempt to "cure" homosexuality.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/01/us/california-bans-therapies-to-cure-gay-minors.html?hp

This reminded me of a story I came across in I believe the New Yorker (I may be misremembering the source). It was about MSM's who didn't want to identify as gay for whatever reason. for some people, they had families including wives and didn't want to risk losing them. Other times, they liked being part of a religion that didn't approve of homosexuality, and I remember a few stories where they simply lived in more conservative areas of the country, small towns or whatever, and they thought they would become outcasts in their communities if they came out. These were men who were sexually attracted to other men, sometimes exclusively (homosexual rather than bisexual) - but other parts of their identities were more important to them than their sexuality.

The piece talked about various therapies for people in this situation, along with the ethics of treating patients. Options ranged from talk therapy to help these MSM's deal with the stress of staying in the closet, to drug therapy and/or behavior modification to reduce sex drive, to conditioning therapy to help these men develop attraction to women. I can't recall if the article said you could actually change your sexual attraction, but I think some psychologists did claim you could develop certain parts of your sexuality. (So if you were attracted to both men and women but were more attracted to men, and wanted to live as a sexually active heterosexual, you could do certain things that increased your latent attraction to women.)

The thing I remember most were some of the stories from the men in therapy. One man in particular, a middle-aged man from Staten Island, said his family and friends would view him as an outsider if they knew he had sex with men. Maintaining those relationships was more important than his romantic life, but he also didn't want it to be "just sex" and he didn't feel it was fair to another man to have a deeper romantic relationship he wasn't prepared to acknowledge. So he wanted a therapist who would help him set up his life that way. He said he thought it was cocky of people who didn't know him, to say he had to order his life the same way others did, making a romantic relationship at the center of it - who were they to tell him that the fact he had sex with men had to be the defining characteristic? I felt for the man, because that's not a decision I think anyone should have to make. But it struck me that there was a quiet sort of dignity in his decision. Kind of like the perpetually single (myself included) who don't define ourselves in terms of who we're in a relationship with - that's simply not the central element of our lives.

So there's a part of me that wants to celebrate this decision on California's part. I honestly do not believe homosexuality is a disease that can be cured. In a perfect world, people shouldn't feel like they have to prioritize between different parts of who they are, hide parts in order to have other parts accepted. But I also can't get that man from Staten Island out of my head. If a person decides with his or her therapist that this is the best course of therapy to achieve the goals he or she wants, do I really want the law taking that decision out of their hands? Even making them wait until the patient turns eighteen? That strikes me as... intrusive. Maybe if the law said the child had to request the therapy or something like that, I'd be more comfortable with it. But, while I'm not a libertarian, I do have a certain sympathy for the idea that government should stay out of personal decisions as much as possible. The reason I'm not a libertarian (one of them) is I think economic inequality is often a bigger barrier to liberty than a restrained government would be in a lot of cases. That doesn't mean I don't have respect for personal choices. And this law seems to get in the way more than it helps.

Thoughts? What do you think of this law? Am I over-reacting here?